Neil Simon, one of America’s most prolific and popular playwrights, wrote more than 30 plays and received more combined Oscar and Tony Award nominations than any other writer.
Proposals, opening on Thursday, March 12, at the Charlotte Players’ Langdon Playhouse, marked Simon’s 30th Broadway production and, in many ways, it is unlike any of the 29 that preceded it.
“The name Neil Simon attracted me to the play,” said director Jesse Reter-Choate. “However, it is not your typical laugh-a-minute Simon play. It’s more of a memory play much like his Brighton Beach trilogy. He is a master at his craft and discovering his many fine layers of character and story-telling is invigorating.”
The play takes place near a resort in the Pocono Mountains, not-too-many miles but a world away from the New York abodes that are the backdrop for most of Simon’s works. The Simon wit and humor are very much in evidence in “Proposals,” and the outdoor set designed and built by Chris Smith and Jimmie Choate (husband of the director and also serving as stage manager along with sound and lights) evokes a mellow and magical atmosphere.
The cast includes some familiar faces and, delightfully, some new faces for the Charlotte Players. The familiar includes Celene Galvan, who guides the action as Clemma Diggins, looking back on the events of a summer in the 1950s, when nine people converged on this tranquil country home and not so tranquilly sorted out their tangled lives and loves. The character of Clemma marked the first time in his career that Simon penned a substantial role for an African-American actor, and the Players is fortunate to have Galvan take the role.
“Her humor is different,” Simon said of Clemma. “Her take on life is different. This woman is no Hattie McDaniel in ‘Gone with the Wind.’ She’s a woman who had a sense of her own freedom. She is very free in the way she talks to that family.”
There are jokes, of course. Loads of them. But there’s much more.
“For the first time, Simon’s control is easy, assured, nonchalantly graceful – masterly,” said the Washington Post.
Proposals runs through March 29 for a total of 15 shows, with evening performances (Wednesday through Saturday) at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Matinees and evening shows will be held on Saturday, March 28. Tickets are $22 for adults and $11 for students and may be ordered at www.charlotteplayers.org or by calling 941-255-1022 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Langdon Playhouse is located at 1182 Market Circle, Port Charlotte.